Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Reno restricts fireworks usage to certain days, times

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RENO — When the Fourth of July or any other firework-centric holiday comes around, people in Reno will be subject to a few new rules.

Reno City Council narrowly approved an ordinance restricting the use of fireworks in the city.

Previously, Briar-Reno Fire Chief Moses Druxman and Code Enforcement Officer Joe Harris had been tasked with drafting new fireworks rules after some council members questioned how they could regulate fireworks to prevent fires and avoid creating a nuisance for other residents. The chief told the council in January that banning fireworks might not be the best choice because the fire department would not be able to keep up with enforcement of that ban.

“I’m not opposed to fireworks,” council member Tod Siedell said during the January meeting. “What I'm opposed to is the marathon shows that go on for days and days and days, and it's like as long as I've got this window, then I'm going to shoot them. I think it's a little ridiculous for people who’ve got animals, children, anybody that works during the week or works at night. … It's just saying, ‘Well, sometime between June 15 and July 15, you can shoot them off because it's the Fourth of July.’ I don't want to tell somebody they can't shoot fireworks, but we have to be a little reasonable.”

During the late February council meeting, Druxman presented the ordinance that Harris and Fire Marshal Rebekah Marlow had come up with. Druxman told the council there were two options — an ordinance restricting fireworks use to certain days and times or a complete ban.

The new ordinance allows people to discharge fireworks in accordance with the dates the state allows the sale of fireworks, Druxman said. Those dates include June 24 through July 5 for the Fourth of July, Dec. 20 through Jan. 1 for New Year’s, May 1-5 for Cinco de Mayo, Feb. 25 through March 2 for Texas Independence Day, April 16-21 for San Jacinto Day, the Wednesday before the last Monday in May through the last Monday in May for Memorial Day, and five days before the first day of Diwali through the last day of Diwali.

The ordinance also includes rules on what time of day the fireworks can be fired off on the applicable dates — 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays. Regardless of the day of the week, Reno residents will be able to discharge fireworks starting at 11 a.m. New Year’s Eve or July 4 and no later than 1 a.m. New Year's Day or July 5.

“The reason that those were placed in there was we want you to be able to use your fireworks on the day you celebrate the holiday,” Druxman said during the council meeting. “The other days, please be respective of the 11 p.m. curfew for fireworks.”

Fireworks won’t be allowed if a burn ban is in effect, Druxman said.

Mayor Pro Tem Shelli Swift pointed out that fireworks can be discharged days before a holiday, but there’s not so much time afterwards, especially for people who work on holidays.

“I don't think it's fair to everybody, but I know you can't be fair in every situation,” Swift said during the meeting.

Typically, the fire department sees issues when a person is shooting off fireworks way past the date of a holiday and bothers their neighbor, Druxman said.

“Really, the purpose of this is to keep knuckleheads from being knuckleheads,” he said during the meeting. “We want to be able to protect what the city of Reno represents, and that’s why we were so less restrictive on this ordinance.”

Violation of the ordinance can result in a fine of $100-$500 and/or the seizure of the fireworks, Druxman said. The fire marshal, a peace officer or code enforcement officer has discretion to decide whether to take fireworks or issue a ticket.

“Our goal is not to collect fireworks; we don't want them,” Druxman said. “Our goal is to keep people safe.”

In the ordinance, the sale of fireworks is still permitted in the city limits as long as all applicable laws are followed, Druxman said.

“Our goal is not to ban the sale of fireworks in the city of Reno,” he said. “It’s an income source for the community. It’s a job for many community members.”

However, because sky lanterns and bottle rockets are prohibited under the new ordinance, these items can’t be sold in the city. This raised a concern from council member Joy Jenkins who feared that the rule could disadvantage a business in Reno selling fireworks.

Druxman said during the meeting that most fireworks businesses in the area do not sell these kinds of fireworks anyways.

“What's in the ordinance is actually what is in the state law about what's prohibited, so it's nothing new necessarily when it comes to prohibiting that specific type of firework,” he said to The Tri-County Reporter. “It’s more of a reinforcement of state law.”

Bottle or skyrockets are banned in Texas if they have “a total propellant charge of less than four grams; a casing size of less than five-eighths of an inch for the outside diameter and less than 3.5 inches in length; and an overall length, including stick, of less than 15 inches,” according to the Texas Occupations Code, Title 13, Chapter 2154.003.

In addition, sky lanterns cannot be sold by fireworks retailers, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office Frequently Asked Questions page on the Texas Department of Insurance’s website. The State Fire Marshal's Office discourages the use of sky lanterns, and Druxman said during the council meeting that sky lanterns are already prohibited by Reno’s fire code.

Rex Nelson, owner of the Nelson’s Fireworks chain that has a Reno store, wasn’t too familiar with the new ordinance, but he wasn’t worried about it affecting his business. Nelson said a small percentage of the store’s customers are from Reno because more people usually come from Azle and elsewhere. He pointed out that because shopping for fireworks usually has to be done in person, his fireworks stores tend to bring in lots of sales tax revenue and benefit other businesses in the area.

“We’re a destination,” Nelson said. “They have to love us. All the cities that we’ve ever been, they fall in love with us because they do the research. They say, ‘Wow, y'all really are bringing in a lot of people,’ and it helps all the other businesses around there. Fourth of July is generally one of the biggest selling days of the year for all these other stores.”

Druxman confirmed that what is being currently sold at Nelson’s Fireworks follows the city’s ordinance.

The council was split on its decision to pass the ordinance. Deputy Mayor Pro-Tem Jennifer Vogle and council member Hernando Herrera opposed the ordinance while Swift and council member Tod Siedell supported it. Because Jenkins abstained, Mayor Hector Bas Jr. had to break the tie and passed the ordinance.

While Vogle called the new rules “fair and respectful,” she said she didn’t want to take the right to shoot fireworks away from Reno residents, as she described it as one of the benefits of living in the country. She believes that people misusing or being disrespectful with their fireworks are in the minority, and some of those issues between neighbors can be dealt with by having a conversation with them.

“I didn't want to take away the right from the majority of the citizens because a few don't care for the fireworks,” Vogle said to The Tri-County Reporter.